USA premieres a pair of new shows this week — one squarely situated in its lighthearted wheelhouse, the other more intriguingly pushing toward new frontiers. The former is “Rush,” about a bad-boy doctor who administers to those living in L.A.’s fast lane, while the latter, “Satisfaction,” is a drama about midlife crises as seen through the prism of a strained, fracturing marriage. As such pairings go, this one is unusually metaphorical — highlighting a network that appears slightly torn between the temptation to expand and test its boundaries, and simply settling for prescribing the same familiar feel-good formula.
Granted, the doctor in “Rush,” William P. Rush (Tom Ellis), is a little more damaged than most. While “House” might have favored pain pills, Rush is introduced snorting cocaine and smoking pot, only revealing his profession when the woman he’s picked up has an overdose, and he has to speed her to the ER.
Because of his clientele, Rush winds up treating a lot of really awful people, from a mega-producer who experiences what he colorfully describes as a “broken cock” to a baseball player prone to physically abusing the women in his life.
Like most such protagonists, Rush appears torn between just taking the money and trying to do the right thing, with an assortment of Jiminy Crickets in his life — including his married friend (Larenz Tate) and the ex-girlfriend who got away (Odette Annable) — whispering advice that aims to put him on a more ennobling path.
Ellis is fine, but it’s all pretty tired stuff — “Entourage” with a medical degree. And frankly, the world could do without another “physician heal thyself” protagonist whose renegade image is seemingly summed up by the decision to sport a three-day-growth beard. Heck, even the name is meant to signal the guy’s an adrenaline junkie, as if the audience couldn’t figure that out without additional cues.
As for “Satisfaction,” it’s hard to know exactly where to begin, which is interesting from a narrative perspective and challenging from a marketing one.
Neil Truman (Matt Passmore) is a successful businessman with a beautiful wife, Grace (Stephanie Szostak), and a teenage daughter. But he’s also bored and miserable, lamenting in voiceover that, after 18 years of marriage, “I need to start figuring out what the hell is wrong with me.”
Neil is equally blase about work, and he starts the change-your-life process by having what amounts to a “Jerry Maguire” moment at the office — except nobody takes his outburst seriously. A subsequent flare-up aboard a delayed business flight, however, leads to a canceled trip and a surprise at home, one that takes the series and central relationship in unexpected directions, including a new line of work.
Written by Sean Jablonski (“Suits,” “Nip/Tuck”), the extended premiere shifts its point of view — allowing the audience to see things from the wife’s perspective as well — so that it’s not just Truman’s show. The desperation behind the beautiful hedges and lawns lends an ersatz “American Beauty”-like tone, including the daughter’s not-so-veiled hostility toward authority.
Thematically, the show shares certain themes with “Married,” an FX comedy that by happenstance premieres in the same hour and also deals with the struggles of what “happily ever after” really means. Where that road goes in this case remains unclear, but for now — unlike the easily diagnosed “Rush” — this companion series warrants further monitoring. And while it’s premature to say I can’t get enough “Satisfaction,” at this point, I definitely want more.